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Grace Kelly knew from a young age that she was destined to be an actress. Little did she know, however, how bright her star would shine. From major Hollywood film actress to Princess Consort of Monaco, there are few that compare to the level of beauty, grace, elegance and fashion influence that Kelly maintained throughout her life and to this day. On what would have been her 91st birthday, we look back at the extraordinary life of a glamorous and deeply adored American Princess.
Early life and inspirations
On the 12th of November, 1929, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Grace Patricia Kelly was born, the third of four children to father John Brendan "Jack" Kelly and mother Margaret Katherine Majer. Kelly was destined for greatness, with her father as a three-time Olympic gold-medallist in the U.S rowing team and self-made millionaire, and her mother as a model and the first coach of the University of Pennsylvania's women's athletics team.
Kelly's heart belonged to the stage from childhood, when her performances in school plays, community productions and modelling sessions with her mother and sister first sparked her love of the arts. She was heavily influenced throughout her life by two uncles who worked in the arts - vaudevillian performer Walter C. Kelly and successful playwright George Kelly, who encouraged her to pursue acting and was a mentor throughout her career.
Although her parents didn't approve, Kelly made the move to New York City to pursue acting when she finished high school. While studying at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, Kelly modeled part time, appearing in ad campaigns for Old Gold cigarettes and on the front covers of Cosmopolitan and Redbook. Initially, after graduating from the Academy, she sought out a career on Broadway at age 19, but soon realized that her talents were more suited to the screen then the stage, hence her move to Hollywood.
Kelly found her big break at 22 years old, while filming her first film, Fourteen Hours (1951). After meeting on set, actor Gary Cooper arranged for Kelly to star alongside him in the Western film High Noon (1952). After the success of High Noon, Kelly went on to star alongside Clark Gable and Ava Gardner in Mogambo (1953). The movie was set and filmed in Africa and soon catapulted Kelly to international acclaim, earning her an Oscar nomination and the Golden Globe for Best Supporting Actress.
Kelly then went on to famously work with her mentor and future friend, Alfred Hitchcock, on Rear Window (1954), Dial M for Murder (1954) and To Catch a Thief (1955). In many ways, Hitchcock considered Kelly as his muse for her elegance, beauty and femme fatale style that earned her a reputation as The Ice Queen, and he even tried to work with Kelly well into her early retirement.
In the film The Country Girl (1954), Kelly starred alongside Bing Crosby and William Holden, playing the stripped-down, uncharacteristically raw and unfashionable role of Georgie Elgin, the alcoholic's wife. This stunning performance allowed her to beat out Judy Garland in A Star Is Born for the Academy Award for Best Actress.
A new role: Princess of Monaco
Grace Kelly was one of the most highly-regarded and best-paid actresses in the world when she met Prince Rainier III of Monaco during a photoshoot while at the Cannes Film Festival in 1955. At the time, the Prince was in search of a bride, as he was expected to produce an heir, otherwise Monaco would be absorbed by France. "I see her with long hair floating in the wind, the color of autumn leaves. Her eyes are blue or violet, with flecks of gold" said the Prince of his dream bride. Naturally, the world was mesmerized by the romance as a fairytale come true. The couple were married in an extravagant and public event on the 19th of April, 1956. Thereafter, Kelly retired from her acting career and gained full Monégasques citizenship to fulfill her duties as Princess Consort of Monaco. They had three children together, Princess Caroline, Prince Albert and Princess Stéphanie.
As Princess of Monaco, Kelly worked with many charitable and cultural organisations. She was the patron for the Red Cross of Monaco and orphanage Rainbow Coalition Children, president of the Garden Club of Monaco and president of the Committee for the International Arts Foundation. Kelly went on to found AMADE Mondiale, a UN recognised, non-profit organisation based in her new home-country that seeks to promote and protect the moral integrity, physical integrity and spiritual well-being of children around the world from all races, nationalities, religious beliefs and independent from politics, which operates to this day.
While she never returned to acting, despite being offered leads in Alfred Hitchcock's Marnie (1962) and Herbert Ross' The Turning Point (1977), she was still fully committed to the arts. The Princess Grace Foundation and the Princess Grace Academy, the resident school of the Monte Carlo Ballet, were both formed to nurture and support artists and performers in Monaco. Kelly made a few appearances as narrator and published My Book of Flowers in 1980, but never returned to the screen or stage.
On September 13, 1982, Kelly suffered from a stroke while driving, causing her to lose control of the vehicle. She later passed as a result of injuries sustained from the crash. At the time, her death sparked an outpouring of grief about the world, with President Ronald Reagan calling Kelly "a compassionate and gentle lady". Grace Kelly is recognised as one of the most beautiful and elegant women in both film and world history, inspiring fashion and film to this day.
"We should try our best to help others so that we could be remembered in a good way." - Grace Kelly
Rest in Peace, Grace Kelly, Princess of Monaco
By Claudia Slack